*** DEBUG END ***

Music review: Ensemble Marsyas, Wigmore Hall, 20 July

05 August 2022

Virtuoso playing and singing were marred, Fiona Hook found


ENSEMBLE MARSYAS’s all-Bach programme at the Wigmore Hall on Wednesday 20 July was sadly less than the sum of its parts. The ensemble’s virtuosity was never in doubt, but there was a lack of ease throughout that led the listener to wonder whether the previous two days’ extreme heat had caused rehearsal time to be cut short.

After the Sinfonia from Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal (BWV146), the mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy sang Bach’s radiant cantata of the soul’s anticipation of death Ich habe genug (BWV82) with clarity and reverence, her recitatives a sincere and simple statement of belief; but the opening aria’s accompanying complex oboe obbligato never quite relaxed into the flow of the music, and was occasionally louder than the singer. They found their form as a duo for the final lilting “Ich freue mich auf meinem Tod”, an all-too-brief glimpse of what might have been.

In the Orchestral Suite No. 4, an early version without trumpets and drums, the bass, and even the viola, overpowered the tune. It was a little like hearing the inner workings of a machine. Whether Peter Whelan, providing sprightly direction from the keyboard, was wise to set so large a bass section against one-to-a-part upper voices is open to debate.

Problems of balance again bedevilled Cantata BWV35, Geist und Seele wird verwirret, in which Bach draws us into the world of the deaf mute healed by Jesus. The virtuoso organist Stephen Farr struggled manfully to be audible against his colleagues. One could hear little in the aria “Gott hat alles wohl gemacht” except the bassoon’s stolid marking of the beat. Even Murrihy’s quiet joy in the final “Ich wünsche nur bei Gott zu leben” was marred by heavy-footed continuo.

A listener at the back during rehearsal could have made all the difference. This was a wasted opportunity.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

8 September 2022
Church Times Cricket Cup: North v. South
Join us to watch the match at the Walker Cricket Ground, in Southgate, north London.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)